Is Patriarchy the Oppressor or the Victim of Gender Role?

Any topic about ‘gender’ is always a conundrum. It’s a moot point whether men are superior to women and vice versa. However, many societies since times immemorial have considered men as the superior gender to women. As a result, ‘patriarchy’ has been associated with many sobriquets, such as; ‘Man of the family,’ ‘Head of the family,’ ‘The leader,’ etc.

On the contrary, women have been consigned to servitude, and often considered to have acquiescent nature. In order to strike a balance and bring equality between the gender roles, ‘feminism’ took place. Quite interestingly, feminism focuses entirely on empowering women and sidelines the possibilities that men too can be victimized by gender. Hence, victimization of men is often underplayed for patriarchy is associated with men.

However, what one fails to understand is that men too can be the victims of patriarchy. With patriarchy comes the perpetual responsibility to look after their families. Men are conditioned right through their socialization days beginning from their own homes to be independent and be the heads of their families. Sometimes (at least a few men) are victimized as they are indirectly forced or expected to fulfill their gender roles.

Willy Lowman, in Arthur Miller‘s “Death of a Salesman” and The narrator in Nissim Ezekiel‘s poem, “The Way it Went” are nothing but the victims of patriarchy. Miller presents Willy Lowman as the typical patriarch who is ingrained with every possible conventional characteristic of a patriarch. He is the father of two children, a husband to Linda Lowman (his wife) and Willy strives hard to make them happy. Although, Willy drowns himself in trying to fulfill the so-called “American Dreams” and is seen as a phony, he does it so to fulfill the needs of his family, and not really to make a mark of his own in life.

If he had to live for his own and fend only himself, he probably wouldn’t have committed suicide. However, being born as a man, Willy too is looked as “The Man of the House”. Hence, the responsibilities to look after his family falls almost entirely on him as Linda is only a home-maker, his two sons are dependent on him. The concept of ‘gender’ in the play talks more about victimization of women.

Linda is confined to within the four walls of the house, and she is cheated by her husband (Willy commits adultery with a kip in the hotel room). On the other hand, Linda seems to be leading a comfortable life (with a loving and an almost successful husband and with two young sons by her side) until the truth about Willy’s romp with a kip transpires. She nevertheless, is seen to be running the family except for doing the household chores. Whereas, Willy as a struggling salesman toils hard all day long only to keep his family happy.

Interestingly, one doesn’t quite feel the need to empathize with Willy’s character as he is  phony in every sense. However, what drives him to become one is a question, which is often not bothered about. Perhaps, he is victimized by the notion of patriarchy.

The narrator in “The Way it Went” by Nissim Ezekiel satirizes patriarchy. He deftly deconstructs the notion of the oppressor  associated with the term patriarchy. He satirizes patriarchy and attempts to prove its characteristics as only meretricious. The narrator in the poem is constantly seen being dumbstruck about how quickly time flies by.

While he ponders upon his confusion, he gets married to a woman, gives birth to a few children, and attends his daughter’s marriage. Soon after, a baby boy (his daughter’s son) sits and plays on his lap but he doesn’t realize it’s his grandson.

When he regains his consciousness, he is already old and encounters with  the shock that his family has consumed all the money he earned throughout his life. He narrates all of these in a very satirical manner and proves that there is no scintilla involved in patriarchy being the oppressor. Can men be victims of patriarchy as well?

A blogger’s opinion on male victims of patriarchy


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